Incision Care: Caring for postoperative incisions to avoid surgical site infections (SSIs)

| Last updated on November 3, 2023

After a surgery, many patients think the hard part is over – but caring for postoperative incisions can become more stressful than the surgery itself due to the risk of infection in the surgical site.

Although surgical site infections (SSIs) are preventable, they are the leading cause of readmission to hospitals after surgery, and at times are severe enough to require re-operating on patients in order to treat the infection. 

Fortunately, there is specially designed medical technology that can help make the job of protecting incision sites easier, for patients and healthcare professionals, while also helping decrease the risk of infections and the setbacks they cause.

In this article explore:

  • Why it’s important to care for postoperative incisions
  • Postoperative incisions and surgical site infections 
  • How to protect postoperative incisions from surgical site infections

Key takeaways:

  • More than 10 million patients undergo surgery every year
  • SSIs are the leading cause of readmission to hospital, post-operation
  • With the proper care and medical technology, SSIs are a preventable complication

Incision Care After Surgery: Why It’s Critical 

There are many reasons why wound care is critical to healing post-surgery. 

An incision is a cut made into the body during a surgical procedure. Incisions are sometimes referred to as surgical wounds.

Our skin is a natural barrier that protects our insides from potentially harmful bacteria that can cause infections. 

Proper care of a postoperative incisions can:

  • Decrease the risk of SSIs,
  • Decrease discomfort and pain around the incision,
  • Decrease scarring. 

Surgeries vary in terms of depth and severity, often differentiated by the terms “minor surgery” or “major surgery” (read about the difference here). 

Although superficial surgeries come with their own risks of infection, major surgeries that require many layers of skin to be broken – for instance open heart surgery or cesarean sections – are a doorway for potentially harmful germs to get in. 

Surgical Site Infections 

Surgical site infections (SSIs) occur when harmful germs enter the incision. 

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, there are three primary types of surgical site infections: 

  • Superficial Incision SSIs – infection in the surface tissues in and around the incision,
  • Deep incisional SSIs – infection of the deep tissues or muscles beneath the incision site, and
  • Organ / space SSIs – infections occurring in the body organs, or space between body organs.

A postoperative infection can cause pain, discomfort, and longer hospital stays. 

The stress of added pain and longer hospital stays on children who have surgical wounds and their families can be extreme. 

In more severe cases, a SSI may result in major setbacks to healing. Infections of organs or deep tissues may impact the success of the operation that led to the infection, and may lead to the need to re-operate.

SSIs can also lead to infections of the bloodstream or sepsis, and when not treated quickly enough, may even result in death

Surgical Site Infections Statistics 

SSI statistics provided by the Patient Safety Network call attention to the importance of incision care and technology after surgery: 

  • More than 10 million patients undergo surgery each year as inpatients at hospitals
  • SSIs occur in 2-4% of all patients undergoing inpatient surgical procedures 
  • SSIs are the leading cause of readmission to hospital following a surgery
  • Although most SSIs are treatable with antibiotics, SSIs remain a significant cause of morbidity and mortality after surgery
  • 3% of patients who contract an SSI will die as a result of the infection 

Fortunately, the same study also found that… 

  • SSIs that occur within 30-90 days of infections near the incision site are the most common preventable complication after surgery. 

How and to protect postoperative incisions from SSIs

Due to advances in wound care dressings and hygiene protocols, it’s easier for patients and their care providers to prevent SSIs. 

Following simple wound care steps from the hospital is critical to supporting wound healing. 

Pairing handwashing, hygiene and wound healing protocols along with a specialized dressing designed to promote undisturbed healing is the best way to prevent infections after surgery and recover with the best outcomes. 

Clear, waterproof dressings are used by care providers because they: 

  • Provide a clear protective layer that healthcare staff can easily monitor through,
  • Reduce the number of times dressings need to be removed - which will reduce stress, discomfort, and pain, and
  • Protect the incision site from exposure to fluids and germs, reducing the risk of infection. 

Where to get dressings that help protect incision sites from infection

Covalon Technologies’ SurgiClear Postoperative Dressings have  a dual antimicrobial combination of chlorhexidine acetate and silver embedded throughout the entire surface area of the soft silicone dressing to protect and guard incision sites from infections. 

It is also the only clear postoperative dressing available on the market, allowing healthcare providers to visually monitor incision sites without the need to remove the dressing for up to 7 days, reducing the risk of infection. 

Our dressings come with an added bonus: gentle, pain-free removal from tender, vulnerable skin, which is critical for preventing medical adhesive related skin injuries (MARSIs).  

Reach out today to request free samples to experience the difference between regular-use medical adhesives, and our SurgiClear dressing.

You’ll quickly see why our dressings are referred to by patients, caregivers and healthcare providers as “the gentle brand.”

Check out this poster by the Texas Children’s Hospital to see SurgiClear in action, and read about how our advanced dressings are designed to improve patient outcomes. 


New York University: Major vs. Minor Surgery

Cleveland Clinic: Open-Heart Surgery

Cleveland Clinic: C-Sections

JAMA: Postoperative Infections

National Library of Medicine: Morbidity and Mortality Associated with SSIs

Patient Safety Network

Texas Children’s Hospital

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